Summary: For Christmas Eve Communion: Jesus remembered in the time of trial that He was born for a purpose, and He intentionally declared that purpose. He fulfilled the mission for which God sent Him.
On Sunday I offered the opinion that I was probably the only preacher in town who was using the Old Testament on the Sunday before Christmas. Well, maybe some used those Isaiah passages about a child named Immanuel and the Prince of Peace. But Elijah? Who would have thought that Elijah and his Mt. Carmel encounters would have led us to the cradle in Bethlehem? You have a strange pastor!
And so tonight, when we should be reading about angels and shepherds and other sweet things, here I am over toward the end of John’s Gospel, with Jesus on Pilate’s porch, taking Him to trial. Sounds like it belongs on Good Friday, doesn’t it? Pastor just can’t get things right.
Or maybe he just sees connections all over the place! The key verse for me is the 37th, where Jesus answers Pilate’s frenzied question, “Are you the King of the Jews?” with a statement that takes us back to His birth. At the moment of Jesus’ rendezvous with destiny, He is thinking about His birth:
“For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
And Pilate, like many of us, grown old before our time, grown cynical and stubborn and callous and cold – Pilate flings off a snarl, “What is truth?”
“For this I was born” In Jesus’ most difficult moment, He remembered His purpose. He reaffirmed the reason why He was here. He knew that the Father had put Him here for a purpose, He had discovered that purpose, and He had hewn the line on that purpose for the last three years. Jesus knew why He was here, and so was able to fulfill His mission. If you cannot remember what you are here for, you will never be able to accomplish it.
My wife sends me to the store for five items. I am not really listening when she packs me off, and so I forget what two of the five are, get two more of them wrong, and succeed only in bringing back the ice cream! If I do not remember, do not pay attention, I will never fulfill my mission.
We forget why we are here and why we do what we do. The Christmas season brings this out in us as no other. We rush, we run, we grab and buy, just to fill up somebody’s stocking, just to make a decent showing. We have forgotten what this day is all about – that it is about love and peace and connecting and family and nearness. But we have been snickered into thinking it is about spending and showing off. I remember a cartoon I saw once, in which a man said to his wife, “Christmas is the only time of the year when we send cards to people we don’t know, read newsletters from people we don’t care about, and spend good money on people we don’t like!” We throw away a lot of time and money and energy at Christmas-time, for reasons that often just escape us. We have forgotten its purpose, we have forgotten our own purposes.
Doesn’t it intrigue you that many people today are doing just as we did back in August and September – looking for what it means to live a purpose-driven life? We are a generation who have forgotten, maybe because we have so many opportunities, why we are here, why we were born. But Jesus remembers His purpose, even in the time of trial.
More than that, Jesus is able to tell others about that life purpose. He is able to speak up and define Himself in a way that calls from others a response. Jesus demonstrates for us that when you know why you are here, you can share that, and it will bring forth a response from others. Jesus says that some listen to His voice; why wouldn’t we? The world listens to people who know what they are about. But many of us, even if we do know why we were born, are far, far too silent about it.
If you were to come with me to my study, you would see shelves lining the walls, carrying the weight of nearly 3000 books. If you were to see that, likely your next question would be, “Have you actually read all those books? When did you find the time to read these?” And sadly, I would have to tell you that I have read only a fraction of them. I would have to admit that it was easier to purchase them on sale or pick them up from library closeouts or in many cases to inherit them from others than it was actually to study them. And so they are silent witnesses, cooped up in a basement room on Glenwild Road, doing nobody any good. I will change that some day; I do have a recipient in mind. But before I worry too much about the books being cooped up in a basement room on Glenwild Road because their purpose is not being fulfilled, maybe I should worry more about the guy who inhabits that room. Maybe I should worry more about my own silence, my own failure to develop my voice, my own lack of discipline that would have, could have brought more of that wisdom to the world. Do you see? Even if we know who we are and what our purpose is, we are criminally silent before a waiting world.